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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    CHINESE    PEOPLE                  27
The Infusion of new blood must explain to a large extent the racial vigour that the Chinese people possess to-day. Historically, this occurs with such striking regularity, at the interval of every eight hundred years, as to lead one to suppose that actually a periodic regeneration of the race was necessary, and that it was the internal degeneration of the moral fibre of the people that brought about these periodic upheavals, rather than vice versa. Dr. J. S, Lee, in a striking paper on "The Periodic Recurrence of Internecine Wars in China,"1 has made a statistical study of these occurrences, which reveal an exact parallelism in these cycles of peace and disorder which "far exceeds the limit of probability'5 and is "perhaps too exact to be expected from the proceedings of human affairs/'
For the striking fact is that Chinese history can be conveniently divided into cycles of eight hundred years. Each cycle begins with a short-lived and militarily strong dynasty, which unified China after centuries of internal strife. Then follow four or five hundred years of peace, with one change of dynasty, succeeded by successive waves of wars, resulting soon in the removal of the capital from the North to the South. Then came secession and rivalry between North and South with increasing intensity, followed by subjugation under a foreign rule, which ended the cycle. History then repeats itself and with the unification of China again under Chinese rule there is a new bloom of culture.
The parallelism of events within each cycle unfolded itself with an unreasonable mechanical exactness as to time and sequence. Dr. Lee mentions, for instance, the undertaking of a great engineering feat which was repeated with fatal regularity and at the exact stage in each cycle, namely, immediately at the beginning of a new bloom of culture: for the first cycle, the building of the Great Wall under the Ch'in Dynasty and the colossal palaces3 the Qfangkung, which were soon subjected to a conflagration lasting three months; for the second cycle, the building of the Grand Canal under the Sui Emperor, who had also magnificent palaces, noted for their grandeur and luxury; and for the third cycle, the rebuilding of the Great Wall, in which form it has survived to the present day, the opening up
1 The China Journal of Science and Arts, March and April, 1931.